Blossompaw does a deep analysis of Squirrelflight and Ashfur’s relationship and why it wouldn’t work.
With the series going on, there has always been a discourse about Squirrelflight and Ashfur’s possible relationship. Especially after the release of “Squirrelflight’s Hope”, more opinions appeared that Ashfur would have been a better mate for the red she-cat than Bramblestar, whom she had originally picked. And though the debate lasts months and there were a lot of response criticizing the pairing, it is still a fairly common belief that Ashfur would be the “more acceptable evil” and Squirrelflight would be most likely happier, even slightly, had she chosen him. This is, however, not true. Ashfur was never a better option, and I wrote this article to explain why Squirrelflight wouldn’t be more content by his side.
Keep in mind that this is a detailed analysis, meaning that there will be a lot of writing and quotes. I know that some people don’t like, or simply don’t have time to read that much, so I have included a short summary at the bottom of the article.
“Opposites attract” is a well-known rule, and in Warriors we have many couples that love each other and stay together despite their many differences. Dustpelt, being rather grumpy and impatient, develops an affection for the sweet, shy Ferncloud, while Brightheart, with her wisdom and kindness, becomes the beloved mate of the hot-headed Cloudtail. Squirrelflight and Ashfur, however, are not an example of this. They have completely different needs and goals in life, making it hard to build a stable relationship.
Squirrelflight is a brave, confident and independent she-cat. She has a tendency to do something before thinking about it, thus often getting in trouble. Being very energic, she needs a lot of adventure, she doesn’t like having nothing to do; she quickly gets bored. She is also very loyal to her kin and friends and seems to value traits related to friendship, such as faith or intimacy. Being the daughter of a former kittypet, Squirrelflight has rather liberal beliefs for a forest cat and is willing to have friendly interactions with other Clans and cats outside the lake territories.
Ashfur is more calm, or at least less quick than her. He doesn’t need constant challenges and seems to prefer a bit more rest. He’s already considered a loyal, established warrior in “Twilight”, and most of his life revolves around the ThunderClan society. He is on the more conservative side of the Clan, actively speaking against house cats or the other Clans, and is often one of the first to get into arguments or small border fights. He is, like Squirrelflight, described to be stubborn, and isn’t eager to modify his behaviour.
Ashfur and Squirrelflight expect different things from their partners. She is seeking a companion, someone that she could have fun and walk through life with as equal partners, not someone that would make her world a sweet and perfectly safe little heaven. Ashfur’s kind and caring behaviour impresses her at first, but she becomes able to see through it, which is, actually, one of the reasons for her rejection. He isn’t able to match her pace, she doesn’t get the freedom and exercise she requires. After some time, his constant checking on her and convincing her to rest for a while starts to irritate her, and if this is what happens after a moon, she could not be happy in a long-term relationship with him. Not to mention that Ashfur is heavily against other Clans, kittypets and rogues, while she, the kit of an ex-house cat, supports interactions with those outside ThunderClan, which would have created potential conflict. And, since they are both described to be stubborn, nobody would try to modify their behaviour to make it easier for their partner. So, even if the pairing was healthy, they probably would split after some time, as they would realise it was a bad match.
Ashfur’s Abusive Traits
Ashfur is not only someone that doesn’t fit her well. He also shows a lot of abusive traits, and his behaviour towards Squirrelflight is pretty toxic at times. Most of those red flags are easy to overlook or mistake for trying to be nice, which is perhaps why so many people do not notice them or think they’re not that important. They are not, though. Even if Ashfur’s manipulative and abusive behaviours are hidden behind the surface of being sweet and kind, not being as visible and forward as in Bramblestar’s case, the abuse is still there.
Giving No Personal Space
Brambleclaw opened his jaws to argue, but another voice interrupted him. “Look, Squirrelflight! I’ve saved you a place over there.” It was Ashfur, signaling from a few fox-lengths away.
Starlight, Chapter 15
In almost every chapter in Squirrelflight’s perspective there is in Twilight, Ashfur offers Squirrelflight to sit with her or go on a patrol. It happens even in her personal situations, like arguments with Brambleclaw or helping Tawnypelt. Every single time Squirrelfight is somewhere, he is there too. It would be understandable if they were very young cats or needed each other for emotional support because of a traumatic event, but they’re perfectly sane adult warriors, he just follows her like a shadow.
In a good relationship, there should be some space for a partner’s own life left. Squirrelflight does not need Ashfur always tiptoeing a few rabbit-lengths after her, she also has her world. It might be interpreted as a typical in-love behaviour, but how many people having a healthy crush automatically appear in the exact same place their crush is in? Usually those are the obsessive or very awkward ones. If Ashfur was always beside her, this could be very tiring at best and descend into controlling and extreme jealousy at worst.
Before we get to the text evidence, I’d like to clarify: overprotectiveness alone isn’t an abusive trait. People who are in love want their love interest safe and sound, and sometimes they take it a bit too far without even noticing; an example is Berrynose, who is fussing over Poppyfrost, but doesn’t realise she feels awkward with this. In Ashfur’s case, however, it is different. His overprotectiveness becomes abuse. It is, in fact, his reaction to Squirrelflight pointing it out that makes it an inherently wrong behaviour.
“The markings are really faint” Ashfur had been over to sniff at the roots of the dead tree. “Leave her alone, Brambleclaw. Any cat could have made the same mistake.” Sandstorm gave Ashfur a look from her narrowed green eyes. “Squirrelflight can answer for herself” she mewed. “She’s not usually lost for words.”
Twilight, Chapter 7
“She will be” Ashfur sprang to Squirrelflight’s defence again, unaware of the furious look she gave him this time.
Twilight, Chapter 7
At this point, Ashfur’s overprotectiveness seems like a symptom of genuine affection and care, it gives the impression that they could manage to work it out. But then, the battle with badgers takes place and he fights for Squirrelflight despite she doesn’t require it nor want it – and finally, she states clearly that she does not always need his help.
Ashfur had thrown himself between her and the badger. “I can take care of myself!” she hissed, but Ashfur had already leapt forward, plunging his claws into the attacker’s pelt as he fastened his teeth into its ear.
Twilight, Chapter 21
This is the true problem. Squirrelflight voices herself very clearly, but Ashfur never reacts, or even mentions her words. Of course, in this situation it is not really possible; if he stopped for a while, the badger would maul either him, her or both, she also is soon asked to help lead the kits out. They see each other after the battle, though, and he does not bring up the scene, he does not try to apologize, explain the situation or simply do the bare minimum – ask what she exactly doesn’t want. He is well aware that he is overprotective, but does not own up his mistake, instead just going on with things. It is not affection anymore. Ashfur treats Squirrelflight as a kitten, he thinks his protection is necessary for her to prevail.
Guilt-trips, Gaslighting, Spreading False Rumours
“Well, I can!” To Leafpool’s surprise, the challenge came from Ashfur. […] “Doesn’t any cat think it’s odd that Squirrelflight is Brambleclaw’s mate, and our medicine cat is Squirrelflight’s sister? It’s very convenient that she had a sign about Brambleclaw just now, isn’t it?”
Sunset, Chapter 17
Squirrelflight shook her head. “I’ll judge Brambleclaw by his own actions” she retorted hotly, “not something other cats did long before I was born.” “I’m only thinking of you, Squirrelflight”, Ashfur meowed. “I can remember Tigerstar. His paws were red with the blood of innocent cats. You know he murdered my mother to lure a pack of dogs to our camp?”
Sunset, Chapter 4
During Squirrelflight’s rejection, Ashfur obviously wants to guilt-trip her into giving him one more chance. He tries to appeal sweet and caring and tells her about the possible “dangers” a relationship with Brambleclaw would bring, implying that he is only thinking of her good. He does not, what he is truly only thinking about is the benefits Squirrelflight leaving Brambleclaw would mean for him. When she sticks with her own opinion anyway, he is able to quickly drop the mask of the kind-hearted angel.
He ignores her greetings and treats her coldly, though she tries to be kind to him. He even publicly accuses her and her family of betrayal and manipulating omens, though he has no proof – his only goal is to humiliate Squirrelflight. Of course, this is after a serious heartbreak, but he would most likely use the same tactics after quarrels in the relationship, just on a smaller scale.
This kind of abuse would be especially harmful when it comes to Squirrelflight. She has a tendency to blame herself for many events. Any kind of drama involving her makes her heavily worried, as she does not want cats to suffer because of her. She is sad when her foster kits turn their back on her, when Ashfur is angry after the rejection and when Bramblestar argues with her, and in all those cases she believes it is her fault. Living in a relationship with someone that uses guilt-trips so often would completely damage her mental wellbeing.
Lack of Respect for Squirrelflight’s Decisions and Problems
Note: The quotes in this part are not taken from the English original. I had no English versions of those, so I had to retranslate them from the Polish version.
“What did you just say?” Squirrelflight turned around and looked him in the face. “Did you forget that my father was a kittypet too?
“I’m sorry. But Firestar is quite unusual. Most kittypets couldn’t live our life. They need Twolegs’ care.”
Twilight, Chapter 16
“How can you say that?” There was a hint of snarl in Ashfur’s voice. “You said yourself that it’s impossible to trust a cat with such a heritage like Brambleclaw”
Sunset, Chapter 4
A common point in the favour of the pairing is that Ashfur was supportive and helpful towards Squirrelflight. He is, after all, acting so sweet when they are courting, checking on her and joking with her, willing to take care of her. While this is how it might look at first glance, the books show the opposite. Ashfur is only supportive when he can afford it. When everything goes alright, he is the helpful, kind tom assisting his dear crush on patrols and stuff. However, when Squirrelflight says something he disagrees with, he usually quickly brushes it off or ignores it completely.
A perfect example is the scene from Chapter 16, Twilight. Ashfur makes some rude remark that Daisy’s offspring can’t adjust to Clan life, as they’re kittypets. Squirrelflight responds immediately, saying that she is also the daughter of a former house cat, to which Ashfur, slightly embarrassed, replies that he didn’t mean to offend her and that Firestar is an extraordinary case, average kittypets should remain outside the Clans. He stands with his hurtful opinion, just expressed more politely, he only wants her not to be angry at him.
It is similar with the rejection scene in Sunset. She says clearly that she doesn’t love him romantically, but he is shocked and not willing to accept it. He does not understand or respect her conscious decision, like a good potential partner would, and does everything to convince her otherwise.
Ashfur always poses as the one that “knows better”. Squirrelflight is, sure, pretty, nice and brave and he likes her, but treats her as inferior when it comes to “serious” things. Her concerns and opinions that are different from his are usually treated as a fussing kit. He fails to understand her goals and ambitions. In his eyes she is nothing but the object of his love and desire. He does not see her as a smart, independent warrior, but as the one that he’s attracted to. Good relationships are those like Ferncloud and Dustpelt or Sandstorm and Firestar, when there are two equals and one is able to slow the other down when they make a mistake. Squirrelflight and Ashfur lack this quality.
Bonus: Less Drama… Or Not Really?
Articles devoted to showing the alternative reality in which Ashfur becomes Squirrelflight’s mate always say that there would have been less conflict in the series. While this is, for sure, partially true, I don’t completely agree.
It is right that the Broken Code drama wouldn’t have taken place, as there wouldn’t be a cat to possess Bramblestar. Berrynose, Stemleaf, Bristlefrost and many other cats would have lived. But it would have been some time until Moonpool defrosted, and without the fight over the codebreakers, there wouldn’t have been an impulse to change the code and unfair rules would have still existed.
Firestar would have still lost a life. If Ashfur wouldn’t have joined the scheme, Hawkfrost would have found a way to kill him anyway. It was his ambition, something his father wanted him to do. Firestar’s loss of this life was just a matter of time.
Another scene that could not have taken place is Leafpool’s kits true parentage being revealed. Well, there wouldn’t have been a fire scene, that’s for sure. Brambleclaw, as much as he was bitter in the books when Squirrelflight is spending time with Ashfur, is not the type of cat to seek this kind of revenge. However, as the Polish proverb says, “lies have short legs” and can’t escape being discovered. The Three would have learned the truth sooner or later. Even the ancestors in StarClan argue whether they should tell them or not – there is a possibility that one cat would have passed the secret to Jayfeather. Also, Ashfur being her foster father would probably not have saved Hollyleaf from getting murdered in the Great Battle, and Leafpool, who was present at her death, would have wanted her daughter to learn that she was her mother on her deathbed. And if she died unaware, she would have known in StarClan, and told her siblings.
Plus, the toxic relationship Squirrelflight has with Ashfur would have caused a whole new branch of conflict. I doubt it would have lasted more than an arc or two, and if it would, they would have constantly been at odds with each other. The events portrayed in Power of Three and Omen of The Stars don’t grant them a rather happy and peaceful ever after, as well. The fights over kittypets keeping their names in arc three would have been hard for the two, with Squirrelflight’s liberal beliefs and Ashfur openly advocating against the warriors born outside the Clan. Since they would have been the Three’s family, it would add to the struggles of the young protagonists, especially Hollyleaf; she seems to be the closest with her foster mom, and her parents having different opinions on the “pure blood” of ThunderClan would only worsen her dilemma about following the code. Ashfur would also have reacted violently and furiously to the revelation of the secret – which, let’s not fool ourselves, was bound to happen someday – probably demanding his mate’s exile or even physically abusing her.
Ashfur and Squirrelflight wouldn’t be a good pairing. Ashfur shows a lot of abusive traits. He acts very sweetly around her, but does not treat her as an equal partner and always has the protective tone. He doesn’t give her much of space for herself, instead following her around, and is overprotective – he does not apologize even when she calls him out and states that she does not like it. He uses guilt-trips and gaslighting while trying to get her to stay with him and then humiliates her when she rejects him. Even if he didn’t show these traits, they were too different to work together and had separate visions of the future. There is a little bonus, as there wouldn’t have been an imposter and Ashfur wouldn’t have died, but other dramatic events might have happened – even without the fire scene Leafpool’s kits would have probably learned that she is their mother, and Hawkfrost would have still murdered Firestar.
This would be all. Thank you so much!